I’ve written about the growing confrontational climate and anti-Semitism on college campuses before and unfortunately, there’s no good news, it’s still ugly, but having to attend a meeting recently by “Knowledge for College,” preparing our Jewish teens for the anti-Semitism and the intimidation they will face on college campuses rankled my nerves. Where is the outcry from decent citizens no matter what your religion?
How do we get the public to look further than flipping on the news with their remote? How can we get folks to want to fully understand such a complex situation? The consequences are that we hear educated people parroting what they believe to be true because after all, they heard it on the news—it must be accurate, right?
Not understanding both narratives—Israeli and Palestinian presents an incomplete picture of the situation which leads to inaccurate assumptions and ineffective solutions—we’ve all heard assume means…making an ass out of u and me : (
Going away to college and away from home—many for the first time, can be exciting yet a bit scary. High school seniors are looking forward to their new experiences as adults and wonder what it will be like. Yet there is a real danger lurking for them. Why should we as parents feel that by sending our kids off to college we are sending them into harm’s way? This is our current absurd reality.
It’s so serious that the Israeli Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee has held meetings to discuss this perverse situation.1
College campuses have always been hotbeds for social unrest and in 2018 it’s no exception. Jewish kids at universities is normal. As a people, most of our kids graduate high school and go to college as their next step (unless of course you’re Israeli and then they must mandatorily go into the Army—but that’s a whole other sad discussion).
Zeev Ben-Shachar, world renowned Israel educator, came to lecture us parents and teens about our connection to the State of Israel and the Jewish people, and how we can better address the increase in anti-Israel activity on college campuses and beyond.
Zeev currently serves as Senior Israel Educator at Jerusalem U. He directs a team of educators, developing and teaching classes on Israel, leadership and activism. Additionally, he oversees a team of content writers, develops online courses, documentary films and educational curricula to connect North American high school students, college students and adults with Israeli history and society.
Very sad, but true, Jewish kids are being attacked, spat upon and pro-Israel talks are being shut down across college campuses. So much for free speech…oh, the Pro-Palestinian protestors only feel they should have that right.
I found myself being captivated throughout the night—I felt as if he was speaking directly to me. I am also apolitical when writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—to the extent that I’m not choosing sides regarding government policy—one state, two state, Peace negotiations—besides, minds far beyond my expertise have tried for decades to straighten this mess out to no avail. However, I also agree that I’m pro-Israel and believe in the right of the Jewish people to establish a state in the land of Israel and the right of Israel to defend itself. Still, I also believe that everyone has the right to live in Peace—living safely with dignity and respect while raising our families.
Another point he made that caught my attention was when he said that the call to activism could be announced by a life experience that inspires you to want to act—I’d say being a human target from Palestinian missiles had that exact effect on me. Our adventure was one of touring, terror and transformation.
As a mom, rockets shooting toward my son added another protective, agitated layer to my feelings that I had to work through—Mama Bear was pissed off and it took lots of slow deep breathing and time to return to my normally Peace-loving nature. It gave me more empathy for the Israelis that have had to live under these life-threatening circumstances for years. Yet it also made me question, what was driving Palestinians to take these actions?
No one would recognize my life today compared to what it was when we left on our trip—I was a wife and stay-at-home mom raising my thirteen-year-old son. Today I’ve finished writing my book, am in the midst of publishing it and proud to announce it will be out this year. I hope you will be interested enough to read it. Please make a comment on my blog or write to me at: Penny@PennySTee.com and let me know what’s on your mind. I’ll let you know when my book is ready for purchase…my son’s college fund could really use a boost : )
Additionally, I have www.PennySTee.com where I write about topics dear to me including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Judaism, spirituality and writing, founded a writers’ support group—Writers4Writers and am about to start my speaking career.
Our escapade sparked a flame of inspiration in my heart to not only capture our adventure in writing—but to want to work on Peace. Everyone deserves to feel safe and our worries should be merely that when our kids come home from school they will be complaining about having too much homework—not safety, whether Jewish or Muslim.
Not until I wrote my book did I realize that I had actually been working on Peace all of my life, but it had been internal. I was born burdened with an older, abusive, schizophrenic brother and parents who were beyond their capabilities in navigating the stormy voyage—I had spent a lifetime since trying to understand myself and others. Now I wanted to take what I’d learned and help people seeking Peace within themselves and/or the world at large.
Additionally, there had been so much that I learned on our trip about which I wanted to teach—beyond the incredible, sacred sites we visited or the fun adventuresome camel rides, snorkeling and jeep caravans.
Before our trip, I had never heard of Iron Dome, my new B.F.F.—Israel’s anti-missile air defense system that prevented most of the thousands of Palestinian missiles from landing and achieving their potentially murderous goal.
Although Israel was successful in stopping the thousands of Palestinian rockets from harming Israelis, what was continuously reported in the media was the huge discrepancy between Palestinian and Israeli deaths, resulting in making Israel look like a maniacal bully.
The Palestinians had built the tunnel system used to launch their rockets below schools and mosques whose destruction was one of the main goals of Operation Protective Edge—helping insure Israel’s ability to stop the Palestinian missiles. The story couldn’t avoid ending badly no matter how many potentially life-saving flyers dropped, texts and calls to Palestinian homes were made that at 9 a.m., we’re going to bomb your house—LEAVE! They often didn’t. Consequently, dead civilians—including women and children were pictured across our living rooms. As Zeev advised us, whether Left or Right, your opinion about the conflict was decided, and who did you determine was wrong? Israel.
Zeev pointed out that you could talk about the Israeli kids who suffered PTSD or couldn’t sleep at night, but it paled in comparison to the impact when on the nightly news there was a deluge of pictures of dead Palestinian children and sobbing parents. Stone-throwing Palestinian kids vs. tanks—the kids rightfully also won that public relations nightmare.
Jerusalem U. has a library of movies they’ve made to help educate students and the public on differing topics. Their movie about the anti-Semitic crisis on college campuses is Crossing the Line 2.
We saw a trailer of Crossing the Line 2 that showed Pro-Palestinian protestors toting egregious signs, JEWS HAVEN’T LEARN THEY NEED SWASTIKA MORE THAN BEFORE, ZIONISM IS RACISM, Jews are terrorist!, and Gaza, Jews killed thousands End Israel.
Zeev pointed out the last sign is the real issue. Many of the protestors object to Israel’s existence. It’s part of the Palestinian narrative since Israel’s independence in 1948—their term, the Naqba (the Catastrophe) seventy years since, their dream remains for Israel not to exist.
Often the rallying call chanted at Pro-Palestinian demonstrations put on by the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Movement or Students for Justice in Palestine: “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free! In the movie Pro-Palestinian protestors also yelled at Jewish students, “Nazi Pig! Nazi Pig!”
The intended, searing punch to Jewish guts delivered, as a foul mouthed protestor shouts in the camera, “F-ck You Zionist Dogs!” and another spits at the camera.
In the film, a Pro-Palestinian student loudly shouted his intentions to shut down the presentation. When Israeli speakers come to speak on campus—these types of demonstrations often shut them down and they are cancelled. This is a distorted abuse of the First Amendment. What about the rights of the sanctioned events?
When does anti-Israel activism cross the line over to anti-Semitism? Criticism of Israel’s government policies doesn’t qualify for anti-Semitism, but anti-Israel and anti-Zionist comments often demonstrate the latest generation of anti-Semitism.
Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel suggests applying the 3 D Test for anti-Semitism:
Demonization—comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.
Delegitimization—claiming the Jewish people have no right to establish a state.
Double Standard—applying standards of behavior to the Jewish state not required by other states.
The Pro-Palestinian vitriol shown in the documentary clearly showed rampant anti-Semitism if you follow Sharansky’s definition. Where are the college administrators and why are they allowing authorized meetings to be shut down?
One telling article I read by Khaled Abu Toameh, a thirty-year award winning, fair-minded Arab Muslim journalist who has reported on Palestinian affairs for decades, “The Pro-Palestinian’s Real Agenda,”recanted his similar experiences to what’s previously been discussed with some added nuances. He states:
“What is happening on these campuses is not in the frame of freedom of speech. Instead, it is the freedom to disseminate hatred and violence.”2
Most disturbingly, Toameh warns, “We should not be surprised if the next generation of jihadists comes not from the Gaza Strip or the mountains and mosques of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but from university campuses across the U.S.”3
His visits to United States campuses were made so unpleasant by his fellow Arab counterparts, that he required a police escort and no longer goes to college campuses because he “feels unsafe.4 This is a professional Arab journalist who frequently works in the West Bank and feels safer there. What about our Jewish kids on campus?
Another point that Zeev mentioned was the unfairness of how Israel was treated compared with other countries by organizations like the United Nations Human Rights Council. To put the size of Israel in context, he told us that Israel is only 1/5 of 1% in the entire Middle East region and with Tunisia, is one of the only democratic countries surrounded by the other countries with significantly less freedoms in the region.
He continued that many horrible situations in the Middle East had occurred:
- Over 500,000 people were killed in Syria and chemical weapons were used by the regime. Half of the country are refugees either inside or outside the country.
- Jordan in 1970, in one month killed over 10,000 Palestinians that rose up against the Jordanian Hashemite minority regime.
- The Sunis, Shiites and Christians are at war.
- ISIS â€“ claimed responsibility for the Paris attack. ISIS captured and executed James Foley and Steven Sotloff, two American journalists.
Yet in the U.N. Human Rights Council condemnations 2006-2015, Israel was condemned sixty-two times, while the entire rest of the world condemnations totaled fifty-nine. Many countries hadn’t received any condemnations including Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia and China—clearly a double standard.
Finally, Zeev stressed that the Jews have had a continuous presence in Israel for three thousand years, with one thousand years of sovereignty always on about the same exact land. When other countries ruled the area such as Rome, or the Ottomans, Israel was governed as a colony from afar in Rome or Turkey. Only when under Jewish governance did the Jews rule within their own homeland. As Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer prize-winning syndicated columnist and political commentator wrote:
“Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: it (the Jewish people) is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language and worships the same god that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store.”
Where is the outcry to stop these anti-Semitic protests? Our Jewish students hear cries of “Heil Hitler,” see Nazi salutes and swastikas, have eviction notices posted on their rooms, and are subjected to Pro-Palestinian “Die-ins” (groups of protesters sprawl on the ground as if dead, implying killed by Israelis) in the middle of college campuses.5
This is the United States and everyone has the right to free speech—not solely groups who take advantage that their voices will be heard.
However the news isn’t all bad. The word is finally getting out and the BDS movement in some states is beginning to be countered with bills like S.720—115th Congress (2017-2018) This bill declares that Congress: (1) opposes the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution of March 24, 2016, which urges countries to pressure companies to divest from, or break contracts with, Israel; and (2) encourages full implementation of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 through enhanced, government wide, coordinated U.S.-Israel scientific and technological cooperation in civilian areas.6
This is an attempt for Congress to boycott the boycotters—meeting the demonstrators equally in their own boxing rink.
Thankfully, there are also some celebrities who celebrate Israel, rather than only those who make the headlines signing petitions and joining the anti-Israel boycott.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complicated and the Peace process even more so. Not least of which each government’s leader must fight their peoples’ outcry of collaboration with the enemy if they try to do so. Grassroots peacemakers sometimes risk their lives to offer an olive branch to their enemies.
So when all is said and done, and I look at where I’ve come from and where I am headed into personally unknown territory—me work on Peace? I ask myself am I up to the challenge, I console myself with the fact that anything that I do will be a step in the right direction. In the words of author, Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Knowledge for College has three more sessions available to explore—some with only the teens and others with teens and parents. Register.
Another opportunity to learn about the topic is on Tuesday, February 27, 2018 at 7 pm at Temple Beth El in Aliso Viejo, CA they will be having a special program on the topic: “Learning to Talk About Israel: A Primer on BDS and Anti-Semitism on College Campuses. It will be presented by Liz Brough of Stand With Us. Register.
As always I invite you to Join Me On My Journey…
1 “Pro-Palestinian Thugs Attack Jews on U.S. Campuses,” P. David Hronik, August 18, 2016, Frontpage Magazine, https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/263880/pro-palestinian-thugs-attack-jews-us-campuses-p-david-hornik
2 “The Pro-Palestinian’s Real Agenda,” by Khaled Abu Toameh, reprinted February 18 2018, Torah Reading: Tetzaveh It was also printed 2009 Aish.com
3 “The Pro-Palestinian’s Real Agenda,” by Khaled Abu Toameh, reprinted February 18 2018, Torah Reading: Tetzaveh It was also printed 2009 Aish.com
4 “The Pro-Palestinian’s Real Agenda,” by Khaled Abu Toameh, reprinted February 18 2018, Torah Reading: Tetzaveh It was also printed 2009 Aish.com
5 Pro-Palestinian Thugs Attack Jews on U.S. Campuses, P. David Hronik, August 18, 2016, Frontpage Magazine, https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/263880/pro-palestinian-thugs-attack-jews-us-campuses-p-david-hornik
6 Summary: S.720”115th Congress (2017-2018) Introduced in Senate (03/23/2017) Israel Anti-Boycott Act, https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/720